RETAIL SURPRISE: Retail spending rose 1.3 percent in November, more than twice the expected gain.
OTHER SURPRISES: Businesses stopped cutting inventories. That lifted hopes for higher factory production as companies restock depleted shelves. And China posted better results in areas ranging from exports to retail sales to factory orders.
WHAT IT MEANS: The global economic recovery may be stronger than has been forecast. But economists caution that obstacles remain, including 10 percent U.S. unemployment. Stores fear they may have to offer deeper discounts than planned this holiday season.